Egypt, Ptolemaic Period, ca. 332 to 30 BCE. A cast-bronze statuette of an ibis posed as if standing in the shallow waters on the shores of the Nile. The petite figure presents with large, webbed feet drawn beneath its plump body, its neck curved up and back in an S-shape, and its avian countenance delineated with circular eyes and a long, curved beak. Typical ibis figures like this example are displayed atop lengthy rectangular plinths and usually with a smaller human in front of it, either representing a supplicant to the ibis-headed god Thoth or another deity like Maat. Size: 3.2" L x 0.9" W x 2.9" H (8.1 cm x 2.3 cm x 7.4 cm); 4.4" H (11.2 cm) on included custom stand.
The ibis, an elegant, long-legged wading bird that lives along the shores of the Nile River, was associated with Thoth, the ibis-headed god of wisdom, writing, and other intellectual pursuits. Many thousands of ibises were ritually sacrificed in honor of Thoth and were embalmed, mummified, and placed within underground galleries as offerings. Thousands of these burials have been excavated at Sakkara, near Memphis, Egypt's ancient capital. Smaller bronze ibis statuettes like this example were typically votive items to be placed inside a tomb with other offerings for the deceased in their journey to the afterlife.
A strikingly similar example, of a larger size, hammered for GBP 16,250 ($20,917.00) at Christie's, London "Antiquities" auction (sale 14230, July 5, 2017, lot 21).
Provenance: private Orange, California, USA collection; ex-collection of Philip Mitry, noted antiquarian in Cairo before 1950
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